The approval of the malaria vaccine is good news for Africa. Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260 000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually, according to the WHO/Photo: UNICEF

WHO approves first malaria vaccine in history

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the first malaria vaccine in history.

WHO experts concluded that the vaccine, Mosquirix, could save tens of thousands of lives every year, saying “the real-world test of the jab showed it prevented 30% of severe cases of malaria even in areas with high uptake of other measures, such as bed nets impregnated with insecticide.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday by the global organisation, its director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, described the development as a historic moment.

“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” Mr Ghebreyesus said.

WHO said the recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019.

It added that it is recommending widespread use of the vaccine, which it tagged; RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) “among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high plasmodium falciparum malaria transmission.” The plasmodium falciparum is the most deadly malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa.

Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260 000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually, according to the WHO.

In recent years, WHO and its partners have been reporting a stagnation in progress against the deadly disease.

“For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use. Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults.”

Read the full text of the WHO press statement HERE

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